Rita Simon earned her master’s degree from Indiana University decades ago, but she hasn’t stopped learning or teaching.
She nearly missed receiving Brown County’s highest community service honor because she had an IU class.
“It took a lot of creativity to get her here,” said Shirley Boardman, who presented the award to Simon on June 15 with the help of past recipient Linda Welty.
The John D. Rudd Award winner’s identity is a highly guarded secret, usually revealed at the end of the Brown County Community Foundation’s annual meetings. This year, it had to be moved to the top of the agenda to make sure Simon didn’t leave.
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It bears the name of its first recipient, a revered public servant and volunteer whose name now graces the ball diamonds at Deer Run Park.
“I won’t get too far into my remarks before you guess the name of this recipient,” Welty said.
For more than 40 years, Simon has made an impact using her nursing degree and her love for children.
“She has a legacy of longevity, and she tirelessly volunteers and is never too busy to say ‘yes’ to a need for a helping hand,” Welty said. “While doing this, she never gets recognition or acknowledgement.”
She wrote a grant with the local health department to help start the the Brown County Women, Infants and Children program in 1978.
Her medical knowledge and heart for kids combined again when she worked as a nurse in Brown County Schools. She was recognized as Indiana School Nurse of the Year; she also served as the nurse for a Girl Scout summer day camp.
Simon is an active participant in American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Her interests also have extended outside the medical field.
She is a 40-plus-year active member of philanthropic sorority Tri Kappa and works tirelessly each year to raise money for local scholarships and projects, Welty said.
She also helped “revitalize” the Brown County Literacy Coalition years ago, she said. She continues to tutor local students in reading and for many years, has made book gift baskets to raise money for the coalition’s work.
She is a member of the Brown County Historical Society; is an active member of the Nashville Methodist Church; and come Christmastime, she’ll will be helping to organize the Brown County Children’s Benefit Auction.
She is also a member of the Fabulous 50 Women’s Circle of Care, which donates and awards as much as $10,000 to local organizations each year.
Simon was one of the first Brown County residents to “embrace the concept of philanthropic donations,” and she continues to do so, Welty said.
Simon recently started the Nashville Neighbors Fund with the community foundation and also created a family scholarship fund in memory of her late husband.
Simon had few words to add to the applause.
“Since I’ve had the pleasure of living in Brown County for 45 years now I know many of you, and I thank you so much,” she said.
“She is a humble servant,” Welty said. “Her impact on our community will be never-ending, just as John Rudd’s impact is felt today.”
2003 John D. Rudd
2004 Yvonne Oliger and David Martin
2005 Nina Jo McDonald
2006 Ray Laffin
2007 Bob Kirlin
2008 Betsy Voss-Lease
2009 John V. Davis
2010 Jaydene Laros
2011 Andy Rogers
2012 Howard Hughes
2013 Donna Ormiston
2014 Tom Tuley
2015 Jeff Boley
2016 Linda Welty
2017 Rita Simon